Sunday 23 July 2023

The Lost Vault of Jesse James

I held back when this puzzle was first announced as it seemed pretty steep for a 3D printed puzzle box… sure it was designed by Jesse, and I’ve always loved his puzzles, but this one was going to be 3D printed…

And then I started seeing pictures of it in the wild, and it looked phenomenal – especially the metal-infused version – the weathering on the outside looked absolutely stunning…  so I kept an eye on the auction sites and bided my time, letting a few of them go as the prices went beyond what I wanted to pay, and then this one came along and while I paid a bit more than retail, I was happy with the price… and delighted when it arrived in the original well-padded shipping box that Jesse sent them out in.

I’ve already mentioned in another blog post that I had a bit of an issue with one of the locks which Louis managed to finagle open and then fix for me, so I’m not going to talk any more about that, and just talk through the puzzle as it ought to be (and is now!).

Any talk of this puzzle has to start with its looks – it is gorgeous! 3D-printed it may be, but there’s been a shed-load of post processing on those bits to add weight inside the panels and to weather and add rust to the outsides – it looks like an old rusty safe that could well have belonged to the James brothers. There’s an obvious combination lock on the front and an old brass lever to open the door – yup, it’s locked up good. There are a few decorative panels on the sides, with some brass bars across the top of them giving you a tantalising view inside the safe… and on the back there’s some sort of decryption device that maps letters to numbers…

Jesse (B) tells us that our goal is to open the safe and retrieve the ill-gotten loot (and memorabilia) of the infamous 'James Boys' band of outlaws.

He describes this puzzle as not too challenging, but it’s anything but trivial!

Finding a way into the puzzle in the first place took me ages – some of the “features” are so well disguised that you could stare at them for ages and not spot a tell. The first stage in the solution shows you just how well made and hidden the puzzle elements are going to be.

From there, there’s some old-school puzzling and translation before heading on to the main event – now smooth as butter!

Once inside there’s plenty to explore – and to read – with that old bit of newspaper (painstakingly weathered by Jesse’s sister) that teased you from behind the bars (don’t be tempted to try and drag it out between the bars – that’s just being silly, and greedy!) now available. There’s an obvious next goal, only you can’t quite get to it… time to Think (c).

There’s plenty more to be done in there, more little relics to find and then ultimately the final treasure itself – you’ll definitely know when you’ve reached the end on this puzzle – your final treasure is beautifully presented and expertly detailed.

Solving this puzzle feels like a romp through the old wild west – the puzzle elements are brilliantly integrated into the theme and despite my initial apprehension – this thing is stunningly well made and it will be proudly displayed next to my other boxes from Jesse.

An excellent collaboration between Jesse, Christina, and Benjamin.

[...and yes, I've learnt my lesson, trust the designer and don't be a snob!] 

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